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‘We might be in for Croke Park Mark 2’

By Staff Reporter

One of the members who left the committee of a residents’ group opposing the new Casement Park has spoken about why he quit and has given his thoughts on the controversial revamp.

In an interview with the Andersonstown News, Seamus Fitzsimons insists he still doesn’t trust the GAA or the builders, but he believes the current committee of the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents’ Association (MORA) has “lost its way” recently and risks losing vital leverage with the GAA as it pursues legal action.

Mooreland resident Seamus walked away from the committee in April over its decision to pursue a judicial review, an action, he says, that will have no effect on the development.

“I was on the MORA committee for two years,” he explained. “Since its formation I had fought against these plans for a huge stadium beside our homes in Mooreland and Owenvarragh. We objected to the initial design, it was undoubtedly a monstrosity, so the design team agreed to move it back from the homes, but then the stadium had to be built higher for health and safety reasons.

“I am a builder by trade,” he added. “I queried this development every step of the way. I asked them to drop it down and sink the foundations. I was convinced for about a year that it could be done and I fought it, but they couldn’t do it because of the water table and I accept that.”

The decision to seek that judicial review is the crux of the problem Seamus has with the current committee. He is convinced that the 38,000-seater stadium will be built come what may – and no legal action will change that. Against that reality, the best course, Seamus argues, is to hammer out the best deal possible for the residents.

“We had always intended to use the judicial review as a threat against the GAA,” he said. “When I met with the legal team I was told that the chances of success for the judicial review were 50/50, and even at that you’d be banking on the Department of Environment having tripped up on procedure. In any case, it would be a paper victory as in reality the judicial review will not change the height or capacity of the stadium and it will be built. I believed that the time had come to speak to the GAA and builders to see what good we could get out of a bad situation. Concessions suggested included a community centre in the new park, bus trips away for residents when the park would be filled, compensation for some homes and residents having a place on a forum that could give us control over what takes place at Casement in the future.

“To pursue this judicial review is to take money from residents for a paper victory when the stadium will be built regardless. And that doesn’t sit right with me because if the judicial review is lost, there is nothing to show for residents. This is why I left the committee with a few others. At this moment, we can still have concessions for residents. This stadium is going to be built, so let the residents have at least some control.”

Seamus said he is committed to staying in the area, despite his trust issues with the GAA and builders.

“I don’t trust the GAA or the builders at all, but if we suspend the judicial review, we can look at getting legally-binding concessions for the residents that have to live here, including me. I have no intention of moving from Mooreland, I will be buried from my home and it will go to my grandchildren. So this isn’t about money for my house. I genuinely want the best for residents, it’s what I have always wanted.”

Expressing disappoint-ment at how the local community has been divided over recent developments, Seamus says his main worry is that residents will be left living next to a “Croke Park Mark 2”.

“I worked with the committee members for two years and people like the Chair, Carmel, are full of integrity, so it is terrible the way things have ended up,” he said.

“But I now think MORA has lost its way. The recent vote it held went against its own constitution and I don’t know why it has turned out this way.

“At the end of the day, this stadium has approval and finances and the GAA and government are going to fight the residents’ group to ensure they get it done. My fear is residents will be left with nothing. You fight to win, and if you know can’t win, then you compromise while you can. If I thought for one second that the stadium scale could be dealt with by judicial review, I would be behind it one hundred per cent.

“The big worry now is that the GAA will be given a free hand with no input from residents. Croke Park Mark 2 may be on its way to Andersonstown.”

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